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November 13. 2012 10:31PM

Bow sees bonus if Dunbarton attend town schools

BOW - If Dunbarton students in grades 7 to 12 join the Bow school district, it could mean a nearly $2 million net increase in revenue for the town, officials said.

At a public hearing on Bow's tentative Authorized Regional Enrollment Area (AREA) agreement with Dunbarton, SAU 67 Superintendent Dean Cascadden said that if all other revenues remained the same, as do enrollment figures, the gross increase would be closer to $1.8 million for Bow.

Based on the draft agreement, Dunbarton families can expect to pay is $8,969 at Bow Middle School and $12,162 at Bow High School, though those rates can change in the next two years.

Not included in tuition amounts are costs for grades K-6, administrative costs, out of district special education costs, transportation costs and debt service.

Dunbarton's AREA agreement with Goffstown and New Boston expires in 2014, and voters must decide in March whether they plan to renew their agreement with Goffstown, which is in negotiations, or partner with Bow.

Dunbarton now sends about 30 students per grade to Goffstown for middle and high school.?Cascadden said Bow has the room to accept Dunbarton students, as enrollments in Bow have declined by about 20 percent in the past five years.

"Our lowest years for births in Bow are in the last five years - those kids aren't even in school yet," Cascadden said. "Dunbarton's enrollment has been relatively stable."

Cascadden cautioned that without an increase in enrollment, staff would be cut, which could result in reduced educational programs, leaving less choice for students.

Bow School Board member Robert Louf said there are families that move to Bow because of its school district.

"If we start cutting back on programs, I would argue that Bow will look less attractive," he said.

Because revenues can fluctuate each budget year, Cascadden said he could not pinpoint the exact amount of tax relief residents could expect to see.

"I do know if we don't do this, we won't have the $2 million," he said. Once the decision is made to form an AREA agreement with Dunbarton, the second process would be the reorganization of the SAU, which would be modified to include Dunbarton.

"The AREA agreement has to come first," Cascadden said. Cascadden cited many similarities between the two school districts, including demographics, percentage of students receiving subsidized or reduced-cost school lunch, community profiles and special education demographics.

"I think Bow and Dunbarton are relatively equal communities," he said.

Should voters in both towns choose to go ahead with the agreement, Cascadden added that transitioning students, both academically and socially, would be a top priority.

"The biggest issue is getting students ready to come in 2014," he said.

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Kathy Remillard may be reached at kremillard@newstote.com.


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